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Ciminelli, Uniland revise downtown, Hertel projects to overcome concerns

Two major Western New York developers that won approval for projects earlier this year have now tweaked them to address concerns that had been raised by critics.

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. had received clearance from the city in May to proceed with its affordable housing and urban market at 201 Ellicott St. The project, consisting primarily of a five-story section and a seven-story section, will include 201 apartments, with a separate one-floor wholesale and retail store to be operated by Braymiller Market owner Stuart Green.

However, Planning Board members and others had expressed concern about the idea of large trucks backing out of the site onto highly trafficked Oak Street while making deliveries to the store's loading dock. So at their direction, Ciminelli officials and project attorney Sean Hopkins reached out to the state Department of Transportation – since Oak is a state highway – and agreed to modify the design and function of the loading dock.

Large tractor-trailers will now enter the site and back up within the surface parking lot, instead of interfering with the street, and will exit onto Ellicott Street. Unlike Braymiller in Hamburg, which is suburban, most deliveries to the city store will come in smaller box trucks anyway, Hopkins said.

"Tractor-trailer deliveries are relatively infrequent and we’ve committed to minimize those," he said. "Many of the vendors will be using box trucks."

As part of the changes, the east facade of the store has been reshaped so trucks can back up from the south through the parking lot, and the loading dock is now at a consistent elevation instead of being recessed. Entrances have also been shifted for both the loading dock and parking area.

The Planning Board on Monday approved the changes, as well as subdividing the site into two pieces, with Green owning the smaller parcel that will hold his store.

Separately, Uniland Development Co. won approval July 29 for its planned new medical office building at 766 Hertel Ave. – the first development on the 20-acre site at Elmwood and Hertel avenues that it acquired from the Deni family for $7.12 million.

The Amherst-based developer, led by the Montante family, intends to convert an abandoned warehouse on the northwest corner of the intersection into a medical office building, by rehabbing the existing one-story structure and erecting an addition, for a total of 32,953 square feet of space. The 2.5-acre site, which includes three parcels, was also slated to feature 120 parking spaces, a drop-off along Elmwood and one loading berth.

But the project was strongly opposed by one of Uniland's neighbors, Commercial Pipe & Supply Corp., which had long used a permanent easement on the site from 1980 that allowed its own trucks to enter, turn around and exit from its facilities. Commercial Pipe owner John Hurley argued that Uniland's planned parking and landscaping at the north end of the property would have blocked his access, and hinted at possible litigation to enforce his claim.

The Planning Board approved the project, since the objections were outside its purview, but the two sides continued negotiating, and reached an agreement that preserves Commercial Pipe's access. The new design reduces Uniland's parking by 14 spaces to 106, with the agreement of its anchor tenant. The Planning Board assented to the changes.

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